Quite some time ago I wrote about how the good folks at Experience Mad had offered me the chance to try out one of their superb driving experiences run by Everyman Racing. Well I am pleased to report I have now completed this experience, and what an incredible experience it was!
Initially I was due to do the experience at Blyton Park racing circuit, doing 3 laps in 4 of the following exotic vehicles; Audi R8, Nissan GT-R, Ariel Atom, Lamborghini Gallardo, Ferrari 360, Porsche 911 Turbo or Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Unfortunately that venue was no longer able to host the experience so my venue was changed to Prodrive in Warwickshire, and my cars where pre picked to be the Gallardo, 911, 360 and Aston DB9 plus one high speed passenger lap in a Subaru Impreza WRX STI as part of the Euro Driving Experience . At least that was the plan but there were a few very welcome surprises on the day which I will come too shortly.
Once I arrived at the venue, of which there are many around the country to suit, I was clearly directed to the shuttle bus pick up point that takes the experience holders and their spectators to the make shift pit lane out on the track. I should point out at this point that if you or whoever you are buying the experience for is a bit of a speed freak, Everyman’s manager informed me that Prodrive and the home of Top Gear at Dunsfold are the fastest tracks they offer. This is something I can confirm having clocked 135mph on Prodrives main straight in a certain yellow Gallardo!
Anyway I digress, after getting of the shuttle bus I was directed to the big portacabins where you sign a disclaimer and present your driving licence and voucher to some of the very helpful staff. Once that’s done you get an itinerary/score sheet for the day and make your way to whichever coloured flag is the one denoting the first car you will be driving. In my case this was the green flag in the pit lane opposite my first car, the Aston Martin DB9. A coordinator takes your name at the flag and then you wait to be called by the instructor who’ll accompany you around the track, simple. The only thing I’d suggest is that if your bringing spectators get them to wrap up warm, old airfields are blustery places regardless of the season!
The Euro Driving Experience is a good package to choose, without getting too technical each car delivers a very different driving experience. My first, the DB9, although beautiful felt uncomfortable on the track. Definitely more suited to eloping than full throttle track work, the flappy paddle gearbox was slow to respond and the whole car felt heavy, which to be fair is not surprising considering the amount of leather, glass, chrome and wood in the interior. Regardless of the driving though a 470bhp V12 is a tough thing to criticise and it was a great car to kick of the day’s proceedings.
The first welcome surprise of the day came when I was called for car two, the Ferrari 360 and to my delight was handed the keys to a newer, more powerful, F430 Spider instead, complete with its Everyman private number plate. Driving the 430 was the realisation of a childhood dream and I suspect it may be for many people reading this. I’m pleased to report it did not disappoint, it was one of the most balanced, well put together cars I have ever driven.
Next car of the day was the 911, but not just any 911 a matte black Carrera S with a GT3 rear wing, 7 speed PDK gearbox and the claim to fame of having competed in the Gumball 3000 rally. Despite my previous reservations about the 911 with it’s engine slung out back layout, I was blown away by how competently it drove. Masses of grip both at the front and rear, capable of tremendous speed (an indicated 130mph on the straight) all accompanied by the awesome howl of the flat 6 motor working in harmony with one of the best gearboxes I’ve ever used, the PDK. Which instead of paddle shifters features plus and minus buttons on the steering wheel which make the wheel seem ever so like an Xbox controller! I feel it is also important to note how well the 911 still drove, even with an odometer reading of 50 thousand+ miles.
A bright yellow Lamborghini Gallardo Spider also with over 50 thousand on it was the final car of the day and it seemed an appropriate car to end on, being the most powerful with 510bhp from a 5 litre V10. Again it provided a totally different challenge to the other cars with its 4 wheel drive system. It felt sure footed, with the ability to haul itself out of corners with ferocious amounts of grip. 4WD also meant it was able to get up to quite incredible speeds down the straights, as I mentioned 135mph on one lap. All this accompanied by a V10 shriek behind your left ear proved quite infectious.
Last stop of what had been an exceptionally awesome day was a high speed passenger ride which I had expected to be in a Subaru. However an upgrade was available on the day, an upgrade which provided me with a thrill better than any roller-coaster I have ever been on. A passenger ride in the quite simply ridiculous supercharged Ariel Atom, driven by none other than the STIG. Now truth be told I can neither confirm nor deny that it was the real STIG, but he did do a very good job of driving like a hooligan and remaining absolutely mute throughout. It is hard to put into words how the Atom feels so I can only suggest you try out a driving experience and have a go for yourself! But I don’t think being strapped to missile would even come close to it.
Now if all that sounds fabulous but you can’t help feeling that you or someone you know has even more exotic tastes in cars. Then I’d suggest you hold out for the launch of Everyman’s Platinum Package available for Christmas 2012. It gives you the chance to drive the brand new McLaren MP4-12C, Ferrari 458 and Gallardo LP-560-4, that’s well over half a million pounds worth of machinery. The Euro Driving Experience though is superb, the cars are phenomenal and the experience, definitely once in a lifetime.